I’m having trouble focusing and maintaining balance these days. I go outside to pull weeds (which, admittedly, need pulling) for an hour or two, then stay out there all day. I would like to say that I meditate daily, do yoga daily, and write my 1,000 words daily, without fail. Because that would be a balanced way to meet my goals and stay sane at the same time, right? But sadly, these days, that is not the case. I seem to pick one thing to do, then can’t make myself stop doing that thing until it’s past time to cook supper.
- I have cleaned and organized my corner of the garage.
- I have completed several artsy-crafts projects that have been ongoing for a while.
- I have cleaned and organized my office.
- I have planted a vegetable garden.
- I have pulled weeds and spread pine straw in most of the flower beds (which is not a one-day, or even a one-week project).
I’ve been good at powering through projects that take little time and even less concentration. Working steadily and slowly on bigger, more long-term projects—like writing the next book that my editor would probably like to see turned in on time—are more of a challenge.
These days, I feel a little bit like our special-needs dog Truman. He gets fixated on one thing and can’t let it go until he’s gone far past the point of no return. He is completely deaf but barks incessantly for no reason (borking at the wind, we call it) until he wears himself out and then falls asleep in a standing position, like a horse.
He often feels a need that he can’t define, but sometimes it feels enough like hunger that he will tear at an unopened bag of chicken scratch and eat birdseed until his belly can’t hold another grain, not even one more tiny seed.
I’m acting a bit like Truman these days, struggling with the need to do something to make myself feel better, but not knowing exactly what that something is. So while he gets comfort from tearing into bags of food not meant for him, I try to find comfort in pulling weeds, or binge-watching TV (or, God-help-me, the news, which doesn’t help one bit), or indulging in some other halfway-mindless activity that allows me to keep busy without thinking too much. Like Truman and many other dogs, I’m latching onto a free-floating anxiety and making it mine, then struggling to figure out what to do with it while dealing with my own completely valid and well-earned anxiety.
So, yesterday, while looking out the window of my upstairs office and for the first time in days actually logging a significant amount of words in my current WIP (for non-writers, that’s work-in-progress), I noticed that Truman was outside tearing into some trash he’d dragged into the yard. I ran downstairs to save him from himself, only to discover that he’d already eaten five pounds of parakeet seed that he’d snatched from the aviary, because my daughter came over to use the pool and left the aviary’s main door standing wide open. (The money we spent for her excellent Montessori preschool education was clearly misspent. They tried without apparent success to teach her to leave every place exactly as she found it, if not better.)
So Truman, feeling his usual angst over nothing in particular and deciding that a bellyful of birdseed would help, got to work ingesting as much as he could as quickly as he could manage. This would mean, as usual, that I would have to clean a mountain of seed-laden poop from the kitchen floor sometime between 1 and 3 a.m., and I wasn’t surprised when at 1:45 a.m. I did have to do just that. Fortunately, he hadn’t peed as well, so it was only the mountain and not the ocean that I had to deal with in the dead of night.
Why does Truman do this? He can’t help it. Head injuries from abuse he suffered in puppyhood along with congenital abnormalities that he was born with have created him to be the crazy, mixed-up dog he is. Anxiety is often linked to head injuries, and who among us hasn’t been dropped on their head in infancy or whacked on the head with a 2 x 4 by a hooligan in the neighborhood at least once? (My sister says I was dropped on my head, which explains any instances in which I disagree with her. I don’t remember that, but I do remember when a bad kid in the neighborhood flung a board at me; I still have a dent in my skull and a scar on my forehead.)
So maybe, like Truman, I can’t help it, either, but I don’t want to be confined or defined by something some neighborhood miscreant did to me on a deserted school playground back before anyone’s parents felt any need to supervise their crotch-goblins on a Saturday afternoon. (I remember running, bleeding, to the kid’s house for help because it was the closest. I remember his mom falling against the doorframe, almost fainting at the sight, then stopping the blood with a wet dishrag and sending me home to my mom, who was asleep with a headache.)
So, yeah, Truman and I both have our excuses, but let’s forget about all that. (Though I am thinking of mailing the Ziplock bagful of seed-infused poop that I cleaned up at 2 a.m. to my daughter. That bad idea won’t go any further than the thinking stage, but at least I can dream, right?)
My problems and Truman’s problems seem to converge and point to a problem we all share at this exact moment in history. What are we all gonna do about our inability to maintain balance in these challenging times? Maybe it will help to remember these five important points:
- 1. Every day is a new day. Each morning is a new opportunity to be true to yourself, to fulfill your calling, and to find out what truly matters to you in this life.
- Every day, you have another chance to forgive yourself for yesterday’s failings and start again.
- Every day is another chance to stop blaming yourself for being human. You may be human again today. And if you turn out to be human every day that you wake up from now until the end of your days, that might not be ideal, but it is okay.
- Every day is another chance to set your own angst aside and help someone else. Helping others helps you. So if you’re suffering, maybe the best thing you can ask yourself is, who can you help today? Is there a friend you can call?
- Every day is another chance to practice self-care. What can you do to nurture yourself today?